CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Who Was Tommy Douglas?

History, Political Science, Social Studies
1 to 2 lessons
To explore the life and legacy of Tommy Douglas, “The Father of Medicare”
In this introductory activity, students will explore some important aspects of Tommy Douglas’ life and political career.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Brainstorm what students know about the New Democratic Party (NDP) and its policies. With older grades, brainstorm what they know about T.C. "Tommy" Douglas as well. Identify current federal and provincial NDP leaders and the main policies of the NDP.

Lead a discussion about medicare, or socialized medicine. Ask: How important is medicare as a social program? Why are people concerned about the quality of medicare? Discuss with students how this program of free, universal medical care came to be introduced in this country, and which political leaders and parties played key roles in this process.

Outline the Opportunity


Direct students to the topics The Birth of Medicare and Tommy Douglas and the NDP on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have students browse the site in any order they wish. Students will take point-form notes on Douglas, noting information that answers the question: Who was Tommy Douglas?

Write the following statement on the board: Tommy Douglas was the most influential Canadian political leader to have never been elected prime minister. Students will work in groups to discuss the statement. Students should consider the political movements Douglas led and their influence from the 1930s to today.

Revisit and Reflect

Discuss with students the long-term influence of Douglas and the NDP. Ask: What key national policies were introduced and shaped by Douglas and the NDP? Why do you think they were never able to win a federal election?


Students can write a one-page paper comparing and contrasting Tommy Douglas with a present-day Canadian political figure.

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